Category Archives: Science

What Makes You Curious?

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Discovery Channel. All opinions are 100% mine.

Have you ever looked at the stars and wondered if life exists outside of our home planet? Have you ever thought about what makes planets rotate and how gravitational force came about? Perhaps you’ve even been curious about how the world looked before mankind set foot on the soil? Questions like these are part of what drives us to discovery and an ever-growing pursuit of knowledge about the things we often take for granted.

Curiosity is behind some of the greatest innovations in history. It was a driving force behind our desire to travel to the bottom of the oceans and land on the moon. Benjamin Franklin, after having witnessed the devastation caused by a lightning strike, was curious about how it worked. Through experimentation and his historic kite flight, he discovered lightning was an electrical current capable of being harnessed and used as energy. He also discovered ways to protect people and buildings from it.

This fundamental human desire to explore, investigate, and learn forms the basis for Discovery’s new series, Curiosity. This series, which premieres Sunday, August 7th at 8pm e/p on the Discovery Channel, covers questions that have been on the minds of people for centuries. Curiosity covers questions like whether or not there is a creator, or an alternative universe, and even the possibilities of time travel.

Curiosity intends to delve deep into many of these core questions and provide the viewer with as much information as possible. The first episode attempts to uncover whether or not God created the universe. Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest minds of our time, will share his knowledge of the universe and how it may have been created. Hawking, along with a slew of thought leaders, scientists, and celebrities will weigh in on this and several other questions in an attempt to bring the viewer closer to discovering the truth about the creation of the universe.

To some, these questions (and many like these) are impossible to answer, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t take steps to at least attempt to uncover the truth behind these curiosities. After all, there’s no telling what we might find along the way.

How the iBOT Wheelchair Mobility Device Improves Lives

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Michael Kaplan, a fellow geek and owner of the iBOT by Independence Technology (a division of Johnson & Johnson).

The iBOT is an extremely versatile and stable wheelchair that can actually stand on two wheels. In 2006, the iBOT retailed for $26,100 with a required prescription. New models are no longer being manufactured and support is expected to end in 2014.

While its name might give you the impression that it’s the next big Apple product, the iBOT was actually developed by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. While they both share a common trait allowing humans to travel on two wheels, this is where their similarities end.

Unlike the Segway, the iBOT doesn’t entirely trust in its operator. Its prime directive is to stay under the center of gravity of the person using it. The result is a stable, safer product that focuses on keeping the user upright, no matter what. This upright position allows the operator to stand over 6 feet tall in some cases, and by doing so allows them to function without many of the burdens typically associated with being in a wheelchair.

The iBOT also features a stair-climbing mode that allows it the user to “walk” up and down standard stairs, breaking down barriers previously associated with being in a wheelchair. It does this by rotating the wheels in a manor much like a rack and pinion.

Another advantage to this design is its ability to operate in various terrains including gravel, sand, and water up to 3″ deep.

Unfortunately, the $26,100 price tag kept this incredible invention from really taking off. Despite having the backing of much larger companies (including Johnson & Johnson), the iBOT was discontinued in 2009 after just a few years. This isn’t to say that this innovation won’t find itself in widespread use in the future. Every day, technologies that were once considered too expensive are emerging as viable consumer products as the costs involved with manufacturing these products continue to decline.

Reduce Your Power Bill with Wind Energy

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Sauer Energy. All opinions are 100% mine.

Summer in Seattle is typically the cheapest time of year, at least when it comes to my electric bill. For most of the U.S., summer comes high electric bills that can strain your budget to its limits. With electricity rates on the rise, the search for affordable alternative energy is even more important. What does this mean for the average homeowner?

Higher energy prices can destroy your budget. During a summer heat wave, electricity bills quickly increase to two or even three times where they sit during moderate months. If you think about it, every degree your air conditioner decreases the temperature in your home increases the amount of electricity you use significantly. Add in the costs associated with various computers, televisions, and other electronics and you have a hefty bill coming your way.

This is also a problem for business owners. Every dollar spent on energy is one less dollar available for staffing, research, and other developmental purposes.

What’s the solution to high energy bills? Currently, wind power is the fastest growing source of alternative energy in the world. This is due, in part, to recent advances in the science behind wind energy.

Unlike solar power, wind power can be generated anytime day or night. A vertical-axis wind turbine (VAWT), like the ones made by Sauer Energy can generate electricity with as little as 5mph of wind. Whether it’s a cloudy night in winter, or a sunny day in spring, wind power can help offset the difference in energy costs the rising prices of traditional generation poses.

One big advantage of taking energy production into your own hands actually comes from the electric company itself. Not only can the electricity you generate give you power, but any excess can be sold back to the utility company. Yes, you read that right. Electric utilities resell alternative energy at a premium to their customers through “green” initiatives that promote the use of alternative energy over fossil fuels. In return for the electricity you put back in to the grid, the electric company will actually pay you, or at the very least reduce your bill. During moderate months when you use less energy, it’s not unheard of that you could receive a check rather than a bill.

In the past, wind turbines had to be set horizontally which resulted in a design that makes them resemble gigantic electric fans. This design has numerous downsides, including a slowing effect on the air, requiring wind turbines to be spaced apart by a factor of ten times their width. Horizontal turbines also require a lot of wind to operate, which means they have to be positioned significantly high off the ground which can pose a both a problem with maintenance and a risk to birds flying by

Sauer Energy vertical-axis wind turbines address common problems with traditional wind turbine design. By changing the axis from horizontal to vertical, the blades are able to rotate around the turbine rather than in a perpendicular manor. This also allows them to catch wind from any angle without having to change blade orientation. Noise pollution, a common problem associated with horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs), is solved with the change in design as well. The vertical axis also addresses the problem of bird entanglement, one of the most discussed downsides of traditional horizontal-axis turbines.

The lower wind speed requirement of vertical-axis wind turbines allows them to be positioned closer to the ground, making them easier to maintain. This smaller footprint is also more suitable for both residential and commercial applications.

The future of energy production is undoubtedly in renewable resources rather than traditional fossil fuels like coal and nuclear power. The idea of having your own personal power plant in your back yard, or on your roof, can be fun to think about. Thanks to a few key advances in technology, we can do that now.

Meet Joe… from Dieter Sauer on Vimeo.

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Sony Playstation Breach Shows How Vulnerable You Are

Sony finally owned up to what was already clear several days ago: Playstation Network incurred a massive breach of user data. Over seventy-seven million user accounts are impacted in what is quite possibly the largest data breach ever. The FBI is on notice and one United States Congressman is accusing Sony of “taking too long to report the breach.” Whoever hacked the Sony Playstation Network likely has access to your username and password, your date of birth, your name, your address and your credit card information. They even have the answers to your security questions.

This data breach should put us all on notice – it’s becoming harder to know who to trust with your data. The problem is bigger than Sony. It proves just how vulnerable you really are. Canceling your credit card right away and adding a “high risk” alert to your credit file might help mitigate the short term damage. You can cancel your mother’s maiden name, or your first pet’s name, or the model of your first car.

Even if your username and password are unique at every site, you likely use the same security questions and answers. After all, how many different security questions do you see? We are asked our mother’s maiden name, our first girlfriend’s first name, our first job, and even what type of car we drive. Thinking back on the last five websites I signed up with, the security questions were almost identical at each one. Now those criminals know the answers to those supposed security boosts – along with all of your other personally identifying information. They can freely access nearly anything you’ve registered for online and they also have the power to assume your identity with brand new accounts.

Let’s dig a little deeper into what this means from a security standpoint. Imagine if you will a C-level executive with GE or Ford who happens to be enjoy gaming on the Playstation Network. Can you even imagine the potential for havoc once data theives access thier various online accounts? We’re talking possible repercussions of a massive scale, y’all. Down on main street, where business owners are struggling to survive and thrive, those who had their information stolen could end up seeing a bankruptcy judge in the near future. An unlucky teen’s parents may end up with a mountain of credit card debt they cannot escape from.

If our trust is violated by a huge corporation like Sony – or any of the other 2,447 companies who had a data compromise since 2005 – who can we trust?

Star Wars Brings Science to Life through Imagination

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Star Wars – Where Science Meets Imagination was originally created by the Museum of Science in Boston and currently travels to museums around the country. This Star Wars exhibit introduces science and technology framed in the context of the Star Wars universe. At various points throughout the exhibit, concepts like space travel, mechanical prosthetics, robotics, and levitation technology are presented with imagery from Star Wars, coupled with hands-on activities and volunteer demonstrations.

See more than 80 authentic costumes, interactive displays, models and props from all six Star Wars films, including Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder and Darth Vader’s menacing black suit. These objects are displayed alongside modern technologies that may one day make the world of Star Wars a reality.

Star Wars objects in this exhibition are on loan from the Archives of Lucasfilm Ltd. and the entire project was created in conjunction with Lucasfilm. You can check out all of my photos from the exhibit on Flickr. They aren’t kidding when they tell you that there are authentic pieces involved:

  • Authentic props and costumes such as Darth Vader’s menacing black armor, Princess Leia’s ceremonial white gown and a full-size R2-D2.
  • Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder from Episode IV.
  • Amazing real-world robot technology, such as a personal assistant robot designed for NASA astronauts.

As a life-long Star Wars fan, I cannot begin to tell you how cool this experience was. The exhibit brought to life the costumes, sets and characters in a way that the movies never did. The interactive elements truly made me feel as though I was channeling Yoda, Darth Vader and Hans Solo myself.

Visiting this awesome display, you will be able to:

  • Get Around – After examining Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder and other floating vehicles from Star Wars, visitors find out how things move without touching the ground in the real world, from models of flying cars to commercial spaceplanes.
  • Meet Robots and People – Visitors meet C-3PO and R2-D2 and explore how people relate to the droids in Star Wars. The exhibition also features the creation of real world robots that navigate, sense and understand the world around them, while communicating in increasingly sophisticated ways.
  • Adapt to the Environment – Travel to four Star Wars worlds and learn how the inhabitants use technology to adapt to their environments: Hoth (arctic); Tatooine (desert); Coruscant (metropolis); and Kashyyyk (forest).

If you have ever waved a lightsaber around or dreamed of being Darth Vader, you seriously need to check out Star Wars – Where Science Meets Imagination. It will be here in Seattle until May 8th at the Pacific Science Center.

Get Rid of Anger With Punch Your Friends

How many times have you ever wished that you could simply POW! – smack someone right upside the head? Come on, admit it – you know you’ve wanted to at least once in your life. The good news is that if you have an iPhone you can now do exactly that. Using Punch Your Friends, you can rough up your boss, coworkers and enemies with a tap of the finger. They’ll sport the bruises to prove it!

Admittedly, the app is pretty cheesy. But you still have to admit there’s a certain satisfaction in putting “bruises” onto photos of your enemies. At 1200 installations per day thus far, it’s apparent that SOMEONE appreciates the work the developers have done.

Don’t forget to stop by our software center today.

BedBug Detective Sniffs Out Critters

Even the cleanest of homes, hotel rooms and movie theaters could have a bedbug problem. I don’t know about you, but just thinking about them is enough to make my skin literally crawl. I’ve seen reports of even upscale hotels having an issue with the lovely little creatures. I happen to travel a lot, and would love to be able to quickly detect whether or not my room was infested. Thanks to the new BedBug Detective, I could be able to do just that.

This little handheld device – which should retail for about two hundred bucks – promises to detect the critters even if there is a small concentration of them in the room. Sweep it over bedding, furniture and walls. An alarm will sound when it sniffs the bedbug’s specific pheromones at 200 parts per million in the air. That tiny of a concentration is purportedly able to be picked up by the gadget.

No more worries about creepy-crawlies in your hotel room bed! The BedBug Detective should be released later this year, and will be marketed to exterminators, business and individuals.

Don’t forget to stop by our software site today.